Emission Targets and Efficiency Standards to Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas

More than three-quarters of companies in the chemical, energy and natural resources industries worldwide are looking to policy makers to set a clear and consistent framework that supports technology innovation and lays out global emission targets and efficiency standards to help reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study on climate change released today by Accenture.

The study, based on a survey of more than 130 executives in major resources companies in the chemical, energy, forest products, metals/mining and utilities industries in North and South America, Europe and Asia, found that while the executives recognize the importance of their own role in addressing climate change, they are looking to politicians to drive solutions by providing clear frameworks against which they can plan and act effectively.

Asked to list the three elements that are most likely have an impact on stabilizing carbon emissions in the long term, the greatest number of respondents -- 84 percent -- cited politicians, followed by energy providers (71 percent) and major industrial users (64 percent).

In addition, one of the clearest findings from the research is that resources companies, the world’s largest emitters of CO2, now recognize the importance of climate change to the future of their business. An overwhelming majority (87 percent) of respondents said they consider climate change an important challenge that their company will have to face in the next five years, with 50 percent regarding it as a ‘key’ challenge. The importance of climate change is highest for executives in the utilities industry, with 71 percent of these respondents citing it as a ‘key’ challenge.

“Our research indicates that we are undergoing a tipping point on the topic of climate change, as governments, customers, investors and employees are taking action &ndash moving step-by-step toward a low or no-carbon economy,” said Sander van ’t Noordende, group chief executive of Accenture’s Resources operating group. “Energy companies will face fundamental new opportunities and challenges in various areas of their business, including creating and executing climate change strategies, applying supply- and demand-side solutions, participating in carbon and financial markets, and investing in energy-related physical infrastructure.”

The research also identified geographic differences among executives. For instance, 73 percent of respondents in European Union (EU) countries said they regard greenhouse gas emissions as an integral part of their business, compared with only 37 percent of respondents based elsewhere. EU resources companies regard their management of carbon emissions as an important element of corporate performance, not as a siloed regulatory burden. More than half of respondents in EU countries said they regard greenhouse gas emissions performance as a key operational metric, compared with less than 40 percent of respondents in other regions.

Another key finding: Most respondents view climate change primarily as a risk factor, with 56 percent saying they regard climate change more as a risk than as a business opportunity, and another 15 percent saying they consider climate change only as a risk, with no related opportunities.

“Regardless of the timing of policy implementation, resources companies need to understand and actively manage the other three main drivers of business success and key competitive advantage around climate change: customer attitudes, technology innovation and new business models,” van ’t Noordende said.

One manifestation of these opportunities is active demand from customers for carbon-efficient offerings. Just under half (45 percent) of all survey respondents said they have received many requests from their customers for products and services that will help reduce the level of carbon emission, and 54 percent said they have received similar requests from commercial customers. In addition, more than one-quarter (28 percent) of respondents said they believe that such offerings already are, or will become, a key purchasing criterion for individual customers, and an even greater number (34 percent) said they believe that such offerings are or will be a key purchasing criterion for commercial and industrial customers.

The clearest indication of missed opportunities can be seen in a comparison of the findings from energy providers in this survey and the findings of an Accenture survey of individual energy consumers last year. Half (50 percent) of the energy providers in the current survey said they have received many customer requests for products and services that help reduce their level of carbon emissions, but only 9 percent said they believe this is already a key purchasing criterion. In contrast, 41 percent of respondents in last year’s survey of energy customers said they would ‘certainly’ switch to energy providers that offer products and services that help reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions, while an additional 48 percent said they would ‘probably’ do so.

Recognizing that customer sentiment does not always result in changed customer behaviors, the data support the idea that energy providers might be under-estimating the degree of importance that consumers attach to the environmental performance of the companies from which they buy energy.


The research is based on telephone interviews with 133 senior executives in major resources companies worldwide, conducted between mid-December 2007 and early March 2008. The respondents are spread across all geographical regions and include businesses in the chemical, energy, natural resources (forest products, metals and mining) and utilities industries.

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